The cold hard facts condemned Petrotrin to closure.
This was the statement of Petrotrin chairman Wilfried Espinet while under cross-examination from Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes in the Industrial Court yesterday.
Espinet returned to the witness box as the Oilfield’s Workers Trade Union’s industrial relations offence complaint against Petrotrin continued.
C Mendes is representing the OWTU in the matter.
Espinet was once again asked by Mendes if on the August 12 the board had told the Government the best option was to close Petrotrin.
Espinet denied any such recommendation was made by the board, but a decision was made based on facts before the board on August 15.
The Petrotrin chairman, however, told the court that the cost of needed repairs to the ultra-low sulphur diesel plant and the refinery placed the company in a precarious position.
Repair of the ULSD Plant would have cost $340 million while the refinery would have cost an estimated $1 billion.
Espinet said it did not come as a shock that repairs were required for the facilities, but the shock came from the cost, which he did not know how to finance.
“There was no decision until we saw the requirement for financing,” Espinet said.
Espinet admitted after the board and Government had come to the realisation that the only viable option was the shut down of the refinery, they did not immediately go back to the OWTU to inform them of the decision.
Espinet, when questioned about this by Mendes, said initially he did not believe he had broken section 40 of the Industrial Relations Act but later admitted to President of the Industrial Relations Court Deborah Thomas- Felix that he was not familiar with section 40 upon her probing.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry Finance Vishnu Dhanpaul testified after Espinet.
He explained that Petrotrin accounted for an estimated $12 billion or ten per cent of the country’s overall debt.
He said from as far back as 2013, investors had raised more questions about the status of Petrotrin than the sovereign debt of Trinidad and Tobago.
Under cross-examination from Mendes, Dhanpaul revealed that following the announcement of the court matter, Petrotrin’s government guaranteed debt rose from US$230 million to $402 million.
He was adamant that the injunction would have a negative effect on the planned restructuring for Petrotrin, but could not give details as to how the timeline would be affected when questioned by the OWTU’s senior counsel.
Dhanpaul confirmed that Moody’s was told as far back as April that the company was to be restructured into a more feasible company, as the credit rating company continued to hold reservations about the company’s status.
The matter was adjourned to August 13.